NBA Power Rankings—Feb. 23: Cavaliers Fall, Thunder Continue to Rise

Taylor SmithAnalyst IFebruary 23, 2010

DALLAS - FEBRUARY 12:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Sophomore looks on while playing against the Rookie team during the second half of the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam part of 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend at American Airlines Center on February 12, 2010 in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

With a flurry of deals having gone down prior to last week's trade deadline, the NBA landscape is different from how it was at this time last week.

Contenders have added what they hope to be the final pieces to a championship run, while some other teams positioned themselves to be big spenders come free agency this summer.

So, while some teams struggle to integrate their new parts (Cleveland, Houston), others are already reaping the benefits of the extra help (Dallas).

Here's how the teams rank this week, 1-30.

1. Los Angeles Lakers (42-14, Last Week: 3)

The Lakers were able to weather the storm without Kobe Bryant, going 4-1 in his absence. 

They'll be getting their leading scorer back for tonight's game in Memphis against the Grizzlies.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers (43-14, Last Week: 1)

The Cavs have lost three in a row since trading for Antawn Jamison, but don't expect this to be a sign of further struggles.

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Once Jamison is fully integrated and comfortable in the Cleveland offense, expect the Cavs to once again start steamrolling opponents.

3. Utah Jazz (36-20, Last Week: 4)

The Jazz lost a tough one to Atlanta Monday night, 105-100.

Kyle Korver has rebounded from an awful '08-'09 season, and is shooting a robust 57% from three-point range.

With Ronnie Brewer out of town, expect Korver to get more opportunities to fire away.

4. Orlando Magic (38-19, Last Week: 5)

After scoring in double-figures just four times in all of January, Vince Carter has scored 11 or more points in all nine February games to this point.

One key? He's gone from shooting 22% from three-point range in January all the way up to 53% this month.

5. Denver Nuggets (37-19, Last Week: 2)

After blowing a 20-point lead, the Nuggets were able to hang on to beat the Celtics in Denver Sunday afternoon.

Suddenly, though, the Jazz are right on their heels in the division, just one game behind.

6. Oklahoma City Thunder (33-21, Last Week: 8)

OKC has now won nine straight games, and has risen all the way to fifth in the mighty Western Conference.

Their turnaround from last season has been unbelievable, and Kevin Durant is now a legitimate MVP candidate.

7. Dallas Mavericks (36-21, Last Week: 11)

Dallas has been clearly rejuvenated by the trade that brought Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson to town.

They were reeling prior to the All Star break, but have now improved to 4-1 since the deal, including an impressive win at Orlando last Friday night.

8. Boston Celtics (35-19, Last Week: 10)

Ray Allen's performance has skyrocketed since he found out he wouldn't be traded by last Thursday's deadline.

Allen has scored over 20 points in each of the three games since then, and Boston looked strong on its West Coast road trip, going 3-1.

9. Phoenix Suns (34-23, Last Week: 7)

The Suns only fell in the rankings because other teams around them appear to have gotten everything together.

The Suns are still 8-2 in their past 10 games, and could be a team nobody wants to play come playoff time.

10. Toronto Raptors (31-24, Last Week: 9)

After easily taking down New Jersey, the Raptors were able to survive a surprisingly-tough new-look Wizards squad Saturday night.

It won't get any easier for Toronto, though, as their next four games pit them against Portland, Cleveland, Oklahoma City, and Houston.

11. Atlanta Hawks (35-20, Last Week: 6)

Atlanta was able to rebound from the awful loss at lowly Golden State with a huge win in Salt Lake City, where they hadn't won a game since 1993. 

Don't look now, but the Raptors are now just four games behind the Hawks for the coveted fourth spot out East.

12. Portland Trail Blazers (32-26, Last Week: 13)

The Blazers are hanging onto the West's final playoff spot by a thread over New Orleans and Houston.

Blowing a 25-point lead and losing to Utah Sunday night certainly won't help their confidence going forward.

13. San Antonio Spurs (31-23, Last Week: 12)

The Spurs still can't find their rhythm, and just lost two consecutive games to Philadelphia and Detroit.

If they really think they have a real shot at a championship, they're going to have to stop losing to teams like those.

14. New Orleans Hornets (30-26, Last Week: 18)

Darren Collison is making a serious run at some Rookie of the Year consideration.

In February, the rookie from UCLA is averaging 21 points, nine assists, and four rebounds per game.

15. Chicago Bulls (29-27, Last Week: 14)

The Bulls made a couple of salary dump trades right before the deadline, and have clearly set their sights on pursuing a major free agent this summer.

As he is from Chicago, and the Bulls have a gaping hole at shooting guard, Dwyane Wade would seem like a prime candidate.

16. Miami Heat (29-28, Last Week: 21)

Speaking of Wade, he won't be available for Tuesday night's game against Minnesota, as he is still nursing his strained left calf. 

After this, Miami will have three straight days off, and would hope to get him back Friday at home against Milwaukee.

17. Houston Rockets (28-27, Last Week: 15)

Since Kevin Martin was brought to town last Thursday, the Rockets are 0-2, and still appear to have difficultly finding somebody to score late in close games.

Once Martin is able to comfortably find his shooting stroke, expect the Rockets to continue to battle for the final playoff spot.

18. Milwaukee Bucks (27-28, Last Week: 17)

John Salmons has been quite a pickup for the Bucks, and is averaging 17.6 points per game in three games (all wins).

He should be the solid scoring option Milwaukee has been looking for since Michael Redd went down with a knee injury.

19. Memphis Grizzlies (28-27, Last Week: 19)

The Grizzlies are reeling, and are just 3-7 in their last ten games.

They're not out of the playoff race by any means, but they're going to have to find a spark somewhere if they want to have any chance of qualifying.

20. Charlotte Bobcats (27-28, Last Week: 16)

Last Wednesday, the Bobcats became the only team with the dubious honor of having been defeated twice by the New Jersey Nets.

They then followed that up with a win over the team with the league's best record, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Inconsistent? I think so.

They've also fallen out of the current playoff picture.

21. Washington Wizards (20-34, Last Week: 26)

Somehow, the Wizards have been playing better since their "star" players were shipped out of town.

Andray Blatche has been blowing up, and has posted a double-double in three of the four games since Antawn Jamison was traded away.

22. Philadelphia 76ers (21-34, Last Week: 20)

The Allen Iverson re-experiment may be over in Philly, as he is out indefinitely to deal with personal issues.

As of today, the once-dead Sixers are just six games out of the final playoff spot, and certainly have plenty of talent to make a decent run.

23. Detroit Pistons (20-35, Last Week: 27)

Think the Pistons regret signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva for a combined $90 million yet?

24. Los Angeles Clippers (23-33, Last Week: 22)

The Clips were able to help interim coach Kim Hughes to his first win with Saturday night's win over Sacramento

As a bonus, new acquisition Travis Outlaw returned from injury to play Monday night, and posted 10 points in just 16 minutes of action.

25. New York Knicks (19-36, Last Week: 23)

Definitely waiting for summer 2010. 

The Knicks appear a bit rejuvenated by the acquisition of Tracy McGrady, and it's certainly brought lots of national interest and attention. 

They'll face a major test Tuesday night when they match up with the mighty Celtics.

Will Nate Robinson be in the lineup to face his former team?

26. Indiana Pacers (19-37, Last Week: 25)

After not playing a single minute in the entire month of January, T.J. Ford has come back as a decent scoring option in February.

He's averaging just under 14 points per game this month, and erupted for 23 points Saturday night against Houston.

27. Sacramento Kings (18-38, Last Week: 28)

Sacramento has lost four in a row, including two straight since shipping out their former best player, Kevin Martin, last Thursday.

Their big prize in the trade, forward Carl Landry, is averaging 14 points and 7.5 rebounds in his first two games.

28. Minnesota Timberwolves (13-44, Last Week: 24)

Since playing well to start the month, the T-Wolves have reverted to their losing ways of late.

They've now dropped six in a row, and have a ridiculously daunting upcoming schedule: at Miami, at Atlanta, at Oklahoma City, vs. Portland, at Dallas, vs. Houston, vs. Dallas, vs. Denver, vs. San Antonio, at Sacramento, at Phoenix, at Utah, at L.A. Lakers.

29. Golden State Warriors (16-39, Last Week: 29)

The Warriors were able to overcome an 18-point deficit to beat the Hawks Sunday night in Oakland.

Stephen Curry led the charge, scoring 32 points with nine rebounds.

30. New Jersey Nets (5-51, Last Week: 30)

Just look at that record.

5 wins. 51 losses. 

How did the Bobcats lose to them twice? 


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